Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Two things that must be checked out!

First of all here is the official introduction of Mike and Panky.

The Brain child of my best friend Kasi Albert and her father Des, Mike and Panky will make you laugh, cry, hang your head in shame. It's a fun and exciting adventure for all the family with a surprise ending that will leave you breathless and can be found here!

Other things to check out are this video because it rocks!!!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Alpaca's are the new Llama

While my love for Llamas will never die, I just thought this little guy was too cute for words...Although nothing will ever replace the Llama, this Alpaca comes pretty damn close.

Read the article about him here

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Fun for all the Family!

Thanks Lewie, you rock!

Monday, August 14, 2006

A Haven in the Desert of Imagination

Dromkeen house is an old homestead in the environs of Riddells Creek. The drive is long, and as a child often monotonous but the reward at the end makes the almost 2 hour trip from the city centre of Melbourne well worth it. Upon arrival the child is greeted with a cornucopia of literary gems set to keep him/her entertained and engaged for hours. The sprawling gardens are filled with bronze statues of many of the best characters from Australian children's literature, often designed by the most prominent illustrators. The house is well kept and beautiful, the exhibits change bi-annually and more often than not you can meet and greet your favourite author or illustrator. Many a happy memory of my childhood comes from Dromkeen, and I owe much of my love for reading and writing from the wonderful staff who sought only to increase my love and knowledge of literature. The museum is primarily targeted toward children, but as an adult I still glean as much enjoyment from my visits there. The exhibitions are informative without being childish and the gardens can simply be appreciated for their beauty and life.

Dromkeen was the home of Judge Arthur Chomley who presided over the County and Supreme Court's of Australia at the turn of the century. It was built as his country residence in 1889 and named 'Dromkeen' after his mother's home in Tipperary, Ireland. In 1973 it was purchased by the owners of an educational bookshop, Joyce and Court Oldmeadow. They used the house as storage for their freight, and in time built up the Dromkeen collection and the house became a haven for Australian children's literature. They preserved many rare children's manuscripts, including the preservation of many pieces that were considered lost. Throughout the maintenance of this collection it was always open for public display as they were passionate about inspiring children to the study and appreciation of literature. The museum officially opened in October 1974.

Court Oldmeadow passed away in 1977, whereupon Scholastic Books assumed the responsibility of maintaining the collection, although Joyce remained director until her own death in 2001. After her death the Oldmeadow's daughter Kaye Keck acceded the position. Scholastic purchased Dromkeen in 1985 to guarantee the collection a permanent home, despite this however the homestead is family run and lives up to it's mission “To build, preserve and share [their] heritage of Australian Children’s literature, enabling children, families and professionals to experience a sense of wonder, enjoyment and learning.”

Each year the Dromkeen collection plays host to thousands of children and adults who come through it's doors. Not only is it a fantastic place for a family outing, but the house also plays host to a number of educational activities. One of these includes the Premiers Reading Challenge documented in The Age on June 26, 2005. Over 115,000 children were registered to take part, where they were challenged to read 12 books, 10 from the official list on the website. Those who reached the target by the appointed time received a signed certificate from the premier.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics survey of Participation in Education makes it very clear that over the last few decades literacy and numeracy skills have been remaining steady. This shows us that schools are indeed teaching children the skills they need to read and write. Where the short-comings appear is very likely going to be a lack of encouragement from the home. When looking at the data however there is a clear indication that numeracy skills are far higher for children than are literary skills. Reading is also higher than the ability to write, but still far below numeracy skills.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that children are no longer instilled in a love of reading by their parents. Books no longer hold any charm or mystery. This renders a place like Dromkeen so important. It introduces children to the dynamic world of books, reading, art, culture. They are in an environment with other children, where they can discover and learn together. It is a place where the child doesn't even need to love books; that love can come later. The grounds are exciting, dynamic, where the characters of your favourite Australian children's stories come to life and you can touch and feel them.

Dromkeen is a place with an avid 'do-touch' policy. Children are encouraged to participate, and the Dromkeen Book Bag provides children with the ability to flick through and examine works by prominent authors and illustrators. The homestead is often visited by the authors and illustrators themselves, and book signings and talks provide the children with a valuable insight into the process of creating literature, and what the works mean to the creator. They hold a
number of holiday activities during the year where children can workshop their drawing and
writing skills. They paint landscapes in the gardens, learn to sculpt and even have writing classes with their favourite writers. The exhibits are ever-changing and dynamic. There is even a club for long-time visitors to the house, called the Dromkeen Dragon's, which a child can be part of until their 12th birthday.

I myself was a member of the Dromkeen Dragon's for about 3 years. When I joined the exhibition inside the house was a showing of the works of Robert Ingpen. It showed the development of his work from inception to completion. There were sketches, partially coloured images, fully developed books, and artwork that had never been published. Christmas parties

with the Dromkeen Dragon's always ended in gifts of books. They were never 'regular' book like Goosebumps or The Baby Sitter's Club but 'real' books. To a child's mind there are books that are and aren't real, and Dromkeen gave me real ones. When I turned 12 and could no longer be a member I was given a gift of a signed first edition copy of William Mayne's Earthfasts at my farewell. It is a book that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Over my years visiting Dromkeen I met many of my favourite children's authors, including Graeme Base (who incidentally designed the Dromkeen Dragons membership badge) and Shirley Barber. Both these meetings were some of the most valuable experiences I've ever had. They supported reading, and were encouraging to those children who expressed a wish to write when they grew older. It was always so fascinating to hear about the creative processes involved in the creation of a work of children's fiction and how they coped not only with their initial rejections, but the ensuing popularity. They put the displays in context. While the exhibitions are already very informative with a great narrative flow showing a works development, putting the exhibitions in conjunction with a real-life author who could personally tell you what was involved brought an added depth of meaning to the exhibitions themselves which is important for children. The exhibitions are designed however to have an appeal to all age groups. They are informative without being childish, and can be viewed as objects of interest in their own right.

The exhibitions were not the only fascinating thing to see at Dromkeen however. The sprawling gardens are home to the Heritage Trail which is made of a series of fourteen picture boards featuring an illustration from a children's picture book. The boards highlight Australian history through the artwork of books by authors such as Roland Harvey, John Nicholson, Desmond Digby, Robert Roennfeldt, Rachel Tonkin, Arone Raymond Meeks, Jimmy Pike, Carolyn Windy, Bronwyn Bancroft, Sally Rippin, Lindsay Muir, Peter Goudthorpe, Steven Willman, Patricia Mullins and Shaun Tan. The boards depict indigenous stories, stories of Australian discovery and exploration as well as significant historical events, multiculturalism and environmental issues, showing that children's literature is so much more than just entertainment. It is in and of itself an education, teaching children about important issues as well as their history.

The garden's are filled with bronze statues of famous characters from Australian literature. The first sculpture to be installed was The Key. It was designed by Robert Ingpen, and was envisaged to be symbolic of Dromkeen opening the door to the world of children's literature. Other sculptures include Possum Magic from Mem Fox and Julie Vivas book of the same name, The Bunyip of Berkley's Creek from Jenny Wagner and Ron Brooks, Mr Lizard and Gumnut Baby from May Gibbs' Snugglepot and Cuddlepie as well as A B ('Banjo') Patterson's The Man From Ironbark. The sculptures can be touched and climbed on, and give a reality to the characters that illustration cannot give. They are completely true to the designs of the illustrators and provide endless joy to the visitors who often read and picnic in view of them.

But of course, who could forget the Joyce and Court Oldmeadow Memorial Sculpture directly in

front of the house. It was unveiled in 2003 and holds the plaque:

Visitors will be captivated by characters from Australian Children’s stories including Koala Lou, Wombat Divine, Shy the Platypus and the inspiring dragon representing the children’s Dromkeen Dragons club.

Do visit and do touch!”

which truly exemplifies the policy of Dromkeen; a dynamic and exciting experience to enable children to rediscover a love of, and joy in children's literature. This is a policy that Dromkeen lives up to. It is a place where adults and children alike can rediscover their love of learning and joy in the creation of Australian children's literature.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Attack of the Vampire Watermelons!

Ahh, Wikipedia, the fount of all knowledge....

Some of you may know that I am currently writing my honours thesis in history. My topic is basically how the media affects (or is it effects, I can never remember...pretty sure it's affects...) the development of folklore and mythology; my case study most notably being Vampire Mythology.

While trying to find out info on the beliefs of the general public, I thought the best place to start would be Wikipedia; where I came across the best folklore known to human kind...Vampire Watermelons...and pumpkins.

The legend stems from the Balkans and was first documented by the ethnlologist Tatomir Vukanovic. Try saying that 10 times fast!

The belief in vampire fruit pretty much states that any inanimate object left outside on the night of a full moon will become a vampire. Watermelons and pumpkins left more than 10 days after Christmas will become vampires. They roll around on the ground and pester the living, although they tend not to be particularly frightening since they dont' have teeth.

The main indication of the vampiric transformation of fruit is a drop of blood that appears on its skin, which then develops into veins...This is very interesting because once again, it shows a need for humanity to try to understand the process of decay in a pre-scientific world. That is basically what vampire mythology in and of itself is all about.

For those of you interested in reading the wikipedia entry for yourself here is the link

Joy to the randomness!!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Clarification for the Brain Surgeons

If you're wondering what this is regarding read the previous post, and it's comments.

Left is an early image of the Mona Lisa. If you look SHE HAS COLUMNS. They are PAINTED columns. The Mona Lisa that is famous has them REMOVED so that you can match up the borders if you had the inclination to do so.

That is the REASON.

I really don't think I can make it much clearer than that. Seriously, it's not that complicated.

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Mona Lisa: Biggest Coverup in Human History

I swear to God, if I have to hear one more brain dead loser speaking about art as if they have any idea what they're talking about. Seriously, Dan Brown has a lot to answer for. All of a sudden everyone's an expert.

Let me set the record straight. The Mona Lisa is indeed part of one of the biggest cover ups in history. But, hear me out before you bite my head off. That cover up consists simply of this: there is absolutely no mystery surronding the Mona Lisa.

That's right folks. None. We know exactly who she was, and why she was painted. We also know what that little smile is all about. None of this DaVinci in drag nonsense, or hidden cryptic clues pertaining to some masonic cult...

The truth is simply this: the title Mona Lisa stemmed from the artist's biographer Giorgio Vasari, who wrote 31 years after the death of Leonardo. The painting is a portrait of Lisa, the wife of wealthy Florentine businessman Francesco del Giocondo. Mona is a contraction of the word 'madonna' meaning 'my lady' or the English equivalent of 'Madam' thus meaning literally 'Madam Lisa.' The Italians call her La Gioconda, which is the feminine form of Giocondo, the man to whom the lady in question was married. The word 'Giocondo' can also mean light hearted (a word which was adapted to be 'jocund' in English), thus the feminine form 'Gioconda' means literally 'light hearted woman.' This gives the title it's double meaning, due to her so-called mysterious smile.

In his same biography Vasari states that the reason for the smile was that during the sitting a small band was playing, and caused the lady to smile in reality, which DaVinci consequently put into his painting. Wow, amazing mystery!

The mystery about why The Mona Lisa's background isn't level can also be answered quite easily. Take a print of the Mona Lisa and roll it so the sides of the painting match up as if you're making a paper telescope. When you see the new edge that is created, you'll also notice it matches up perfectly. The painting was originally enclosed by painted pillars, but DaVinci asked that they be removed for this very reason. A similar technique is used today to prevent monetary fraud, match up the edges of a $5 note and you'll see what I mean.

So there you have it guys. The truth. That's the big cover up. There is nothing slightly mysterious about her. She is simply an astounding piece of art and should simply be admired as such.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Why do I like House?

No seriously, tell me. Why do I like it?

Watching it last night just made me realise that there is no reason for it. There is not a single likeable character in the entir show except for Kutti (or however the hell it's spelt). House is an arrogant prick (although I find that apealing), Foreman is just a general pain in the ass...he thinks he's right but is inevitably wrong every time and yet doesn't learn that he's a completely braindead dick...Cameron is just a whiny little girl who has overly Christian morality which really just gets her into trouble. Yes, she's vaguely hot, but the more you see of her personality the more you realise that there's nothing there....and could she and Chase just have sex already? I know they already did, but she had possibly HIV at the time, so that didnt' count... (don't ask me the logic behind that thinking...there isn't any...). Chase is just too damn bland to be unlikeable, although I am waiting for the day that House leads him around naked on a leash saying "good doggy...beg."

Most importantly however is the one thing that the characters need to learn: House is always right!

How many times do they have to question him and make whiny, bitchy comments behind his back before they understand this?